Common Issues in High Net Worth Divorces

Common Issues in High Net Worth Divorces
April 7, 2016 LS_admin

Divorces are difficult for everyone involved. There are so many things that both parties must carefully consider in the middle of an emotionally turbulent time that the counsel of an attorney is extremely important. The assistance of a competent, experienced, and compassionate attorney becomes even more crucial when it comes to high net worth divorces where a large amount of money, property, businesses, and assets are at stake. These types of divorces have a much higher potential for mistakes on both sides. Because of the emotional nature of a divorce, the parties themselves are usually not in the best frame of mind to make decisions that are favorable in the long term. Therefore, if you are facing a high net worth divorce, you should contact the attorneys at Burke McClasky Stevens in the Kansas City area as soon as possible. There are some common issues in high net worth divorces, including the following:

Identifying Hidden Income and Assets

One of the first steps in a high net worth divorce is identifying all of the income and assets of the parties. Many spouses are surprised to learn that the other parties earn significantly more than what they at initially believed. It is also possible that a spouse may not be aware of all of the sources of income the other party spouse may have available. These other income sources may come in the form of business interests or investments, annuities, inheritances or trusts. With the assistance of an attorney, there should be an analysis of the marital lifestyle to reveal whether unaccounted-for income is being infused into the marriage.

All assets that are part of the marital estate must be identified. More often than not, a spouse will not be aware of all of the assets that have been created during the marriage, especially if it lasted for a long time. There may be bank accounts, individual retirement accounts, pensions, deferred compensation accounts and stock options, just that a spouse may have without the other party\'s knowledge. Having an experienced attorney on your side can help you determine whether these hidden assets exist. Once identified, hidden assets can be valued and a proper or  equitable division of the assets  can be reached.

Assessment or Valuation of a Professional Practice or Business

Divorces involving large amounts of assets often involve one or both spouses owning a profitable professional practice or business. The practice or business must first be valued before it can be equitably distributed by a court. Most often, a court will determine an appropriate value for the practice or business, and then award an appropriate monetary amount to the non-owner spouse. In addition to an attorney, it is at times necessary to retain a valuation expert who will examine every facet of the business, including income, assets, employees and debts. A court may appoint its own expert, and as well as each party. If the divorcing couple cannot agree upon a valuation of the practice or business, the court will do so.


Sometimes divorces involve trusts in which a spouse is a beneficiary. In these cases, it is common to see distributions from these trusts played a significant role in the lifestyle of the couple during the marriage. The value of a trust is relatively easy to determine as trustees are required to keep detailed records of trust transactions. These records will usually include the monetary value of the trusts and an inventory of the assets contained in the trust. To determine how much of the trust, if any, should be part of the marital estate depends on factors such as how the trust came to be and the amount of control a spouse has over the trust.

The seasoned team of family law attorneys at Burke McClasky Stevens have several years of experience representing clients in high net worth divorces. Our law firm serves Kansas City and surrounding areas, including Johnson, Clay, Platte, and Ray Counties. You may contact us for an initial consultation by calling (913) 242-7522. We will help you craft an effective and efficient legal strategy that protects your interests.